Best Beaches on Oahu: The Complete Guide

Whether you're visiting Oahu or just live here, the sheer amount of beaches to choose from can be overwhelming. It's easy to find a few favorites and stick to them rather than venturing outside of your comfort zone. But there are so many wonderful beaches on the island, from popular fan-favorites to hidden gems, and they're all worth checking out!

Here at Best Beaches Oahu, we're on a mission to explore every beach on the island. While we haven't quite hit that goal yet, we've spent a lot of time at a lot of beaches. These are just a few of our top picks on the island so far.

1. Ala Moana

If you live or are staying in or near Honolulu, then Ala Moana is a must-visit. This chill beach is great for weeknight picnics with friends, long days soaking up the sun, and early morning paddleboard sessions. The beach is no more than a fifteen-minute drive from pretty much anywhere in the city, and comes with ample free parking, restrooms, picnic areas, and expansive parks where you can chill in the shade once you've had enough of the sun. It's also right across the street from L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, which makes it a great spot for sunset takeout.

Location: South shore (Honolulu)

Amenities: Restrooms, picnic tables, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue

Free parking: Yes

Recommended activities: Swimming, paddleboarding, snorkeling, sunbathing

2. Waikiki

Waikiki is a classic for a reason! While usually crowded with tourists and locals alike, this bustling beach has a little bit of everything, from swimming to surfing to just soaking up the sun. Once you're done with the the beach, world-class restaurants, shopping, and attractions are just a stone's throw away. While "Waikiki Beach" typically refers to the main drag across from major hotels like the Moana Surfrider and the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, the area is home to several lovely beaches that run into one another, including Kahanamoku Beach, Fort DeRussy Beach, Kuhio Beach, Queens Beach, and Kapiolani Beach. Each has a slightly different vibe and amenities - feel free to explore them all!

Location: South shore (Honolulu)

Amenities: Restrooms, nearby restaurants and shops

Free parking: No

Recommended activities: Swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, sunbathing

3. Ehukai Beach

Ehukai is home to the famed Banzai Pipeline, where, during the winter months, skilled surfers ride monster waves. This beach features steep sloped sand dunes with plenty of room to spread out with a group. It's fun to go in winter to watch the waves, but usually too rough to swim in except during the heart of summer. Ehukai is also a great place to watch the sunset or go for a long walk on the beach.

Location: North Shore

Amenities: Restrooms

Free parking: Yes

Recommended activities: Surfing, sunbathing

4. Makapu'u Beach

Makapu'u is located on the southern tip of Oahu, at the very beginning of the island's windward side. This bay is home to stunning views and powerful surf, making it a favorite for bodysurfers. The waters can be dangerous for unexperienced swimmers, so it's best to use caution when entering the water. Located adjacent to Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, this beach is a great destination to relax and soak up the island scenery after a sunrise hike.

Location: Windward (east) side

Amenities: Restrooms

Free parking: Yes

Recommended activities: Bodysurfing, sunbathing, hiking

5. Makua Beach

Also known as Tunnels Beach, Makua Beach is a beautiful, secluded beach located on Oahu's leeward (west) side. This beach is far up the coast, which means that it feels a world away from the usual hustle and bustle of tourists in Honolulu or the north shore. During the summer, it's a great place to go for a dip or snorkel in the shallow pools. During winter, the waves are typically much higher, which means it can be dangerous to enter the water. The beach is a part of Ka'ena Point State Park, and there are hiking trails adjacent to the beach. With views facing west, Makua is also an excellent spot to watch the sunset.

Location: Leeward (west) side

Amenities: None

Free parking: Yes

Recommended activities: Surfing, snorkeling, sunbathing, hiking

6. Kailua

Kailua Beach is frequently included on lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and for good reason. This beach features stunning turquoise waters, mellow waves, and long stretches of sand to walk along. The beach is good for swimming, and is also popular with kayakers and windsurfers. There's free parking for this beach, but the lot can fill up fast, especially on holidays and weekends.

Location: Windward (east) side

Amenities: Restrooms, picnic tables

Free parking: Yes, fills up fast

Recommended activities: Swimming, kayaking, windsurfing, sunbathing

7. Kahala Beach

Kahala Beach, also known as Wai'alae Beach Park, is located a short drive from Waikiki on the other side of Diamond Head. This peaceful beach typically has calm waters, ideal for swimming and snorkeling. The bottom of the water can be a little rocky, so plan to bring water shoes or sport sandals if you'd prefer to touch the bottom. Kahala Beach is located near the Kahala Hilton Beach hotel and Wai'alae Country Club. While there is free parking, the lot is small and fills up fast. However, this also helps to keep the beach less crowded.

Location: South shore (Honolulu)

Amenities: Restrooms, picnic tables

Free parking: Yes, fills up fast

Recommended activities: Swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing

8. Kahana Bay

Not to be confused with Kahala Beach, Kahana Bay is located on the windward (east) side of Oahu, near the north shore. This stretch of beach is located in a forested bay, with plenty of shady spots for when the sun gets to be too much. It's a popular surf spot in the winter, and also has camping spots that can be reserved in advance. The Kahana Stream empties into the ocean here, which means that the water can be a little murky for comfortable swimming. But if you're looking to spend a relaxing afternoon in the shade, Kahana is one of the best spots on the island. Pro tip: get lunch from the nearby Shrimp Shack - you won't regret it!

Location: Windward (east) side

Amenities: Restrooms, picnic tables, camping

Free parking: Yes

Recommended activities: Surfing, sunbathing, camping

9. Waimanalo

Just a short drive from the more popular Kailua and Lanikai beaches, Waimanalo has a charm that is all its own. This beach features vast stretches of white sand, moderate waves, and plenty of room to kick back and relax. It's not usually as crowded as other beaches in the area, and typically has plenty of parking. Don't sleep on this overlooked gem!

Location: Windward (East) Side

Amenities: Restrooms, picnic tables

Free parking: Yes

Recommended activities: Swimming, sunbathing

10. Malaekahana Beach

Dreaming of waking up to the sound of breaking waves, stepping out of your door and heading right down to the ocean? Then Malaekahana Beach is the answer to your dreams! This beach is located on the windward (east) side of the island, near the northeast tip where the coast transitions to the north shore. There are tent camping sites and small cabins for rent, and the beach is good for swimming, surfing, and soaking up the sun.

Location: Windward (East) Side/North Shore

Amenities: Camping

Free parking: Yes

Recommended activities: Swimming, surfing, camping, sunbathing

Visiting Oahu's Best Beaches

The above beaches are just a small selection of the many beaches on the island, but they're some of our favorites. When visiting beaches, always remember to be mindful of your environment and respectful of other beachgoers. You should always strive to leave the place better than you found it!

Oahu's beaches are stunning, but they do post some safety hazards for inexperienced swimmers and surfers. It's a good idea to always treat the ocean with respect and caution, and to stay out of the water if you're feeling unsafe. Hawaii Beach Safety's regularly updated beach map is also a great resource when deciding which beaches are safe to swim and surf at.

Maggie W.

On a mission to explore every beach on Oahu.

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